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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

'The Jetsons' S2: A '60s Show Set in the 21st Century Updated for the '80s

The many fans of "Jericho," "Family Guy," and "Futurama" who waited up to a few years for new episodes of those shows should consider themselves lucky compared to those of us who liked "The Jetsons." The first season of that early example of a prime time Sunday night animated network show aired in 1962-63. The second season premiered in syndication in 1985.

Before further discussing "The Jetsons," it is worth mentioning that current prime time animation leader Fox may break the record in the lag between seasons of a show. That network's resident perpetual ninth grader Seth MacFarlane is developing a new "The Flintsones" series. 

One can only hope that MacFarlane's creation is more of an homage to the original '60s "The Flintsones" than a "Family Guy" clone. I would hate to see MacFarlane mine humor from depicting Fred Flintstone as a raging alcoholic and his best buddy Barney Rubble as a closet homosexual. 

As they said back in the era of first season of "The Jetsons," now back to our program.
The DVD set of the second-half of the 1985-86 second season of "The Jetsons" is another example of the terrific Warner Archive series making a cartoon series that enjoyed limited success available to its fans.  I never thought that I would have a chance to revisit childhood favorites "The Funky Phantom" and "Goober and the Ghost Chasers."

Warner Brothers has also released the first season and the first-half of the second season of "The Jetsons" on DVD. Each set looks good and has nice special features.

"The Jetsons" tells the tales of computer engineer George Jetson and his nuclear family living a life of relative ease in the latter half of the 21st century from the perspective of writers and animators first living in the early '60s and then the Reagan-era mid-80s. 

The '60s version was a little closer to "The Jetsons'" predecessor the stone-age "The Flintsones" in having more time-period puns and being delightfully corny. The '80s version of "The Jetsons" was totally new wave, totally.

Many of the fashions, including bold prints and skinny plastic space-age glasses, from the latter version of "The Jetsons" were very close to what the cool kids were wearing that year. Additionally, the "Hi-Tech Wreck" episode in S2 V2 in which George's boss Mr. Spacely was obsessed with living the lifestyle of the rich and famous was a perfect example of the "Me Generation."

The episode "One Strike, You're Out" also reflected the '80s very well. This one had humans and computers literally arguing about the threat that each posed to the other in the job market. 

I was especially pleased to see "A Jetson Christmas Carol" in this set; I Tivo that program every year and had thought that it was only a special, rather than an episode of the series. Aside from being highly entertaining, this version of that story stands out by having the Scrooge character not really change at all. 

All of this is not to say that the '80s version of "The Jetsons" was still not cartoon fun for the entire family. There were plenty of very amusing segments in which high-tech gadgets malfunctioned, Astro the talking dog was as cute and loving as ever, and the family continued facing the same entertaining dilemmas as television families have for the past 60 years. 

It is worth mentioning that the somewhat outdated 21st century technology adds some unintentional humor to the show. As someone who is still semi-stuck in the "olden days" of the late 20th century and often embraces technology a little late, and only bought a GPS a few months ago, I laughed when I saw George Jetson reading an old-style fold-out map in an S2 V2 episode.

Anyone with thoughts or comments regarding "The Jetsons" is welcome to email me.